“The only reason I’m in Hollywood is that I don’t have the moral courage to refuse the money.”—Marlon Brando “Well, you know what they say in Hollywood – the most important thing is being sincere, even if you have to fake it.”—Cesar Romero

HOLLYWOODEN NICKEL/Image: Michael Moffa

A very ordinary-looking fellow walks into a Hollywood employment agency, is invited to sit and quickly makes it clear exactly what he is looking for: “I want a Hollywood job.”

The recruiter, puzzled, asks what he means.

Recruiter: “You mean you want a job here in Hollywood…Right?”

Man: “No,…well, yes…but I want a job that is soooo Hollywood.”

Recruiter: “What sort of job is that?”

Man: “There are many different kinds. But one of my favorites is an Eddie Murphy job.”

Recruiter: “Pardon me?”

Man: “An Eddie Murphy job….a job where people will pay me to insult them; like, when Murphy does a stand-up bit, live, on-stage and goes after the audience, mocking them, making fun of them, taunting them, “F”-this, “F”-that, “F”-you. The kind of thing that most stand-up comics in L.A. do.”

Recruiter: “Ah…paid to insult people. Those jobs are hard to find, unless you are willing to work as a ticket agent in an unheated Chinese bus station, with 20,000 customers lined up on every major holiday. There was a position on American Idol….when Simon left. But, that position has been filled and the job description has been changed somewhat.”

Man: “Oh. Ok. Well, as I said, there are different kinds of Hollywood jobs. Another one I would like is a Steven Spielberg job.”

Recruiter: “What kind of job is that?”

Man: “Well, it’s a job where I can make a lot of money by doing work that is play. You know, where people pay me to indulge my fantasies, like a kid. I mean not just pay me on what you can call “the supply side”—you know, producers, film companies and the like, but also on the demand side, when the movie is finished and people start paying for tickets. I don’t know the details of Spielberg’s deals, but I imagine he gets a budget to spend—which is in addition to whatever he gets paid and then he gets a slice of the movie gross. Anyway, I want a Hollywood job where I get paid by both my boss and by my customers or clients.”

Recruiter: “Hmmm…paid on both the supply and demand side of production of service or goods. In Hollywood? Right? Ah…Just the thing. Here’s a restaurant near Rodeo Drive—they need a waiter; you get to keep all your tips.”

Man: “You think Spielberg lives on tips?”

Recruiter:”Er…it’s pretty much the same business model. But there is one difference: Spielberg really has to report his for tax purposes. Well, he has to report them, if his accountants haven’t been able to get them written off. The good thing about being a waiter is that even though you probably won’t be able to find the same kinds of loopholes, the tax-exposed income is certain to be much smaller. As for fantasies, you will always be able to pretend that everything a customer orders or does is ‘Great!’…You know: ‘Will that be the trifle or the rum cheesecake, guys?…Ah….the trifle. Great!….And will that be cash or credit card, sir?…Ah, credit card….Great!’”

Man: “That’s not the kind of fantasy I had in mind. You’re talking about butt-kissing delusions. I’m talking about playful self-indulgence.”

Recruiter: “Ok. I see. Well, the best job of that sort isn’t available now and maybe never will, since Hugh Hefner is apparently still very healthy and on the job. And I don’t think ‘secret shopper’ is a good fit for you.”

Man: “Uh-huh. Ok, forget it. How about another kind of Hollywood job?—the kind where I make one thing and get to sell it over and over again, and get really, really rich.”

Recruiter: “For instance?”

Man: “An actor. An actor makes one movie—that’s what he makes, exactly one movie. Other people in factories make copies, but he makes one movie that gets sold over and over again, or rented over and over again. Try that with pizza. One slice. One slice sold 20 million times? Maybe twice—if a customer leaves one from the pie and its gets reheated and resold. I know. But, 20 million? No way.  So, I want to be an actor.”

Recruiter: “You have a point.”

Man: “Damned straight! What’s more, an actor gets to do something that no other American is ever encouraged to do.”

Recruiter: “What’s that?”

Man: “Every other American is taught “Be yourself”, or “Be all you can be!”. Except actors: They are rewarded for being anything but themselves—paid to pretend they are someone else. Try that on a date and see where that gets you, if not in jail.”

Recruiter: “But there’s a difference. If you lie to a girl and tell her you are single, when you are actually married, that’s lying, and of course you are going to get in trouble. Acting is different.”

Man: “How so? Did people who cried watching ‘Titanic’ think, ‘Ooooo…DeCaprio is so good at pretending, that he made me cry?’ No way. You’ve got to be fooled….and maybe a fool…to fall for that hook, ocean liner and sinking. DeCaprio was a great liar.”

Recruiter: “But actors are being themselves—actors.”

Man: “Oh, so being a professional liar is an honest occupation? Apparently it is. That’s what’s so appealing—being paid to do what we can’t get away with otherwise. Like Mike Tyson. Love it.”

Recruiter: “So, can you act?”

Man: “I’d be lying if I said I can. On the other hand, if you believed me, I guess that would mean I can act. So, if I lie about being able to act and lie really well, then I am able to act. Therefore, if I successfully lie about being an actor, then it’s true I am an actor! The job gets more appealing all the time! Got anything for me?”

Recruiter: “Sorry, you just missed the mid-term elections in November.”

Man:”Right. Ok, I’m interested in another kind of Hollywood job. Screen writer.”

Recruiter: “Why?”

Man: “Well screen writers get to do something that Karl Marx said we should all do if we don’t want to be “alienated” from our own “labor”.”

Recruiter: “What’s that?”

Man: “Consume what we produce. You know…unlike factory workers who add a screw or a layer of paint and never see what they’ve made again as it heads off to some other city or country.”

Recruiter: “Well, I don’t know about that. In the 1950’s a lot of screen writers got seriously alienated from their own labor because of their alleged political sympathies…You know, the McCarthy era. Anyway, I don’t see how screen writers consume what they produce.”

Man: “They get to watch the movies they write.”

Recruiter: “Ok, now I get it. Let me think……Aha!….It’s not screen writing…but it’s not far from Hollywood. The pay is not great, but it does meet your specification that you get to consume what you produce.”

Man: “What’s that?”

Recruiter: “Migrant farm worker….If you don’t get caught eating what you are picking.”

Man: “No thanks. Look…How about professional basketball player…say, with the L.A. Lakers?”

Recruiter (starting to glaze over): “What’s your interest in that about?”

Man: “It’s the kind of job where I can become rich, famous, desirable and admired just because I can do something that’s really, really hard to do, even though it’s completely arbitrary, trivial, useless and otherwise unimportant. So, if the Lakers are a no-go, do you have anything close?”

Recruiter (flipping through some files): “Uh…so, hard to do, arbitrary, trivial, useless and otherwise unimportant…but very well paid. Outlet for narcissism? Vastly over-rated?…Are those optional for you?…Just a thought…Ok. Yes…How about this?…Costume designer for Lady Gaga. Rumor is that the current one slipped up and designed a non-kosher beef dress”.

Man: “This is unreal! Look…I’m gonna give this another shot. I’d be ok with a job like a Hollywood drug dealer.”

Recruiter: “What? Why that? Anyway, it’s illegal”

Man: “It’s the only Hollywood job I can think of where my job is to find jobs just like my job for other people after I’ve found one for myself and get really rich doing it.”

Recruiter: “Uh…not quite. There is a legal alternative.”

Man: “What’s that?”

Recruiter: “Amway.”

Man: “This is going nowhere. Ok. One last try: How about Hollywood street evangelist?…You know, a street preacher.”

Recruiter: “What’s the appeal. Do tell.”

Man: “It’s like being a first-rate doctor. A really good doctor is one you almost never have to see, because his excellent advice, preventive medicine expertise and treatments will keep you healthy and away from his office. A kind of “self-liquidating” profession, when conducted at its best. The street preacher is like that: If he’s really good, you won’t have to come back soon, because there will be no “soon”, if he’s right about “the Rapture”, “the Apocalypse”, “Judgment Day” and “the End” all being “nigh” and upon us. It’s a high standard to shoot for. Besides, while waiting for the End, I can get rich on donations.”

Recruiter (exasperated): “Will any other ‘self-liquidating’ profession be acceptable?”

Man: “I suppose.”

Recruiter: “In that case, and in light of California’s unprecedented fiscal crisis, why don’t you consider running for governor next time around. I’m sure that, given the dimensions of the budget crunch and your skill set, it’s guaranteed to be a self-liquidating job, with lots of other liquidation opportunities.”

Man: “I can’t wait that long.”

Recruiter: “Well, since I can’t find you a job, why don’t you consider becoming a Hollywood job recruiter?”

Man:”Where?”

Recruiter: “Here.”

Man: “You have an opening?…a job here for me?!”

Recruiter (nodding as he abruptly turns off his computer and heads for the door): “Mine.”



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